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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

Need a New Wardrobe? Try a Clothing Swap

There’s a new way to recycle your closet and find great deals on stylish clothing, and it’s been growing in the past couple of years: closet swaps. You may have heard of this concept (especially in the fashion blogosphere), as more and more people have participated in these social gatherings to unload their old duds and find some new wardrobe staples. One woman’s never-worn chambray button-down is another woman’s treasure, right?

Here’s the general concept: You bring your slightly worn clothing and accessories to the event, you get credits according to the value of what you contribute, and you use those credits to pick out items from other swappers. Jezebel has started a clothing swap tradition in NYC, and trusty Meetup has a whole list of swapping groups in many cities, from San Francisco to Chicago to NYC.

One particularly interesting development in the closet swap world is ClosetDash, a NYC-based startup that successfully combines brick and mortar closet swapping with the online world. Since not all communities are full of women ready to open their closets, founder Jennifer Lee created a web space where people can share the clothes that no longer have a place in their wardrobe and find new items. And it’s almost free—you only pay $1 per item that you post!

If you’re fortunate enough to live in NYC, ClosetDash also has a store on East 20th Street where you can drop off your own items, get swap credits, and shop the store. You’ll find everything you see online, plus additional racks of dresses, sweaters, jackets, jeans, and much more, all beautifully color coordinated. I was lucky and was in the store when one swapper dropped off a full suitcase of clothes—my friends and I got to pick through it before anyone else! Taking the time to visit the shop is absolutely worth it.

Another option? Have a smaller-scale swap held in someone’s home. It’s like a day spent shopping with your favorite friends—only it’s totally free! If you want to try it out, here’s a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Invite a large enough group of people that there will be various sizes represented, which is better for sharing. (Oh, and definitely invite your most fashionable friends!)
  2. Suggest a cap on how many items each participant can bring—otherwise, you risk having an enormous stack of unwanted clothes at the end.
  3. Provide tokens (poker chips, perhaps?) for each item a guest brings in, which she can then trade for the items she wants.
  4. Offer extra hangers to display guests’ items around your living room, and clear off a bookcase or table to host folded items.
  5. Bring out a mirror or two so that guests can try on pieces. Of course, the beauty of a closet swap is that you’ve got a whole room of friends to lend their expert opinions, but a mirror never hurts.
  6. Consider turning your swap into a charitable event by suggesting an “entrance” fee from each guest to be donated to the organization of your choice. One excellent option: your local branch of Dress for Success.
  7.  At the end of the event, collect the leftover items and bring them to the local Goodwill, so nothing goes to waste.
  8. Don’t forget some snacks and bubbly!
  9. Tell us! Have you done a clothing swap before? Any tips that new swappers should know about?

    Photos of ClosetDash courtesy of Coffee, Light & Sweet.